Wednesday, 27 March 2013

SWP "rape crisis" fallout reaches India

The crisis in the Socialist Workers Party has already had some consequences internationally with the withdrawal of the Serbian and Croat groups (which most observers didn't even seem to know existed) from their International Socialist Tendency. A small group of individuals quit the Canadian International Socialist Organization. The latest casualty for the SWP is what is left of their "reputation" such as it was any way.

There is a "worthy" magazine for Marxist intellectuals called Historical Materialism, which  contains the kind of articles "that take three months to write and two hours to read" as Andy Brooks General Secretary of the New Communist Party once told me about another similar journal. More to the point it engages in self wallowing Marxist navel gazing.

Nonetheless it attracts an audience, which includes a readers group in India. As you will recall rape has become a major issue in India since the highly publicised rape and murder of a student by a gang in Delhi last year. The "comrade delta" case has resulted in protests to the organisers about the participation of the SWP which could lead to boycotts or disruptions. The organisers issued the following statement:

Statement from the organising group of the Delhi HM conference

Over the past few days there have been suggestions that the journal Historical Materialism (HM) is run by Britain’s Socialist Workers’ Party (SWP), that the SWP is associated with the Delhi HM Conference on 3–5 April 2013, and that in light of the rape crisis in the SWP, the Delhi HM conference should be boycotted or disrupted.

Both propositions underlying the boycott and disruption call are absolutely false. HM has always been an independent journal, and is not controlled by the SWP or any other group. Three out of the 12-member Editorial Board were members of the SWP. During the recent controversy, all three have resigned their membership of the party in support of democracy and gender rights. Furthermore, there is no connection whatsoever between the SWP and the Delhi HM conference.

Participation at HM conferences across the world has always covered a wide spectrum of left-wing political thought. The Delhi HM conference includes participants from India and abroad and will continue this tradition of plurality. Members of the organising group of the Delhi HM conference, which is broadly Left in its composition, believe that equality between the sexes is central to building ‘new cultures of the Left’. This struggle must address violence against women wherever it occurs. Since the recent crisis in the SWP involves rape charges, it caused deep disquiet amongst us.

The bulk of the preparations for the conference, including the selection of submissions, took place well before the recent SWP controversy, yet the fact that one out of around 140 papers selected was by an SWP Central Committee member was used in the disinformation campaign against the Conference. As the success of the Conference is the organising group’s prime concern and we have no wish to be associated with the crisis of any other group, we asked the sole member of the SWP CC who was to attend the conference not to attend. The HM Conference remains an open event and its organisers cannot prevent the entry or exit of participants or stop anyone who chooses to speak from the floor of the Conference discussions from doing so.

Dilip Simeon
Gautam Mody
Harsh Kapoor
Kamal Chenoy
Rohini Hensman
Rosa Basanti
(On behalf of the Delhi Conference organising group) 26/3/2013

This has displeased the "Professor" immensely who has replied thus:


Dear Organizing Committee,

I was very surprised to receive your communication. You ask me ‘to withdraw [my] decision to attend’. But I only made that decision in response to an invitation to participate in your conference. So what you are in fact doing is withdrawing your invitation, as is indicated by the fact that you have already deleted me from the conference programme. I think you should take full responsibility for the decision you are actually taking.

I understand of course how important the issue of rape and sexual violence is in India, especially after last December’s gang rape and murder in Delhi. It is also a very important question in Britain, and for me personally, as it is for the Socialist Workers Party. We are strongly committed to women’s liberation. We took the rape allegations against a leading member extremely seriously; the controversy over how the party handled these allegations is indicative of that seriousness. The special conference that we recently held to resolve this controversy has set up a committee to review our procedures, and we intend to use this to reinforce our efforts to combat the oppression of women.

It is not for me to judge how grave the danger of disruption to your conference is. But an appeal circulated by an academic at JNU does not reflect well intellectually or morally on those agitating against my presence at the conference. This document is a farrago of nonsense that treats allegations as proven fact, cites tendentious opinion pieces as ‘reports’, and includes the laughable assertion that ‘the journal Historical Materialism is allied, and … is known to be principally operated by Socialist Workers Party members and supporters’.

Since this is a conference sponsored by Historical Materialism, let me remind you that I am a longstanding supporter of the journal and, along with Marxist intellectuals of many political tendencies, a member of its International Advisory Board. I have tried to support HM’s development both in Britain and internationally. Your decision damages HM’s commitment to promote Marxist theoretical development independently of organized political alignments.

So I regret your decision – not just for this reason, but also because I value my long-standing connections with the Marxist intellectual left in India. In taking this decision, based directly or indirectly on interested misrepresentations of debates inside the SWP, you run the risk of compromising your own intellectual and political integrity.

This is to say nothing of the personal inconvenience and expense you are exposing me to by withdrawing your invitation a week after you had circulated a programme that included me as chairing one session and speaking at another, and barely a week before I was due to fly to India. This is quite unacceptable in what is meant to be an academic conference, and it is also not how socialists should behave towards one another.

In comradeship,
Alex Callinicos

I love that bit about "not how socialists should behave towards each other".

Lynch mobs anyone?
This article has been cross-posted at Harry's Place which is now back on-line following a "denial of service attack". You can't keep a good website down. Welcome back Harry!

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